From the May 14, 1956, issue of TIME
TIME
By Lily Rothman
January 8, 2015

Though Elvis Presley died nearly four decades ago, Thursday would have just been his 80th birthday had he lived.

Despite that short life, and his gargantuan fame, Presley was no child prodigy. As TIME recounted in its first profile of Presley, which ran in the May 14, 1956, issue, it took him nearly half his life to get into music.

Presley was born in Tupelo, Miss., and received a guitar from his parents when he was a kid. He played casually and not very well, and sang at church but not much elsewhere, until one day he “was seized with the urge to hear his own voice, took his guitar with him and made a recording in a public studio.” He had been working as a truck driver, but the studio engineer thought he had an interesting voice and called him back to record more.

Many listeners were slow to catch too. The following letters appeared in the June 4 issue of TIME:

Sir:

For heaven’s sake, leave Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe to the pulp magazines. They are both utterly nauseating.

MRS. FRANCIS McGUIRE

Arlington, Va.

Sir:

There must be some error, since in your May 14 issue I find Elvis Presley in the Music section. What does that idiotic howling have to do with music—except the fact that it is on records? Seems to me, the attitude to take would be one of ignoring the whole noise, hoping it will go away.

ARVYDAS BARZDUKAS Cleveland

Sir:

Don’t worry—we all haven’t gone to the dogs! I’m a redblooded, American, teen-age girl, and I think he’s ghastly!

JUDITH TURICK Los Angeles

Sir:

That “Hi luh-huh-huh-huuv yew-hew” article: Are you sure that fellow’s real name isn’t Pelvis Presley ?

ROBERT E. JORDAN Seattle

Still, no matter what Arvydas Barzdukas wanted, ignoring Presley couldn’t make him go away. Even today, decades after his death, his birthday is still occasion for fans to remember their luh-huh-huh-huuv for his music.

Read TIME’s first profile of Elvis Presley, here in the TIME Vault: Teeners’ Hero

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